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Bye-Bye Bat Wings!

By Pamela Peeke, MD, FACP, MPHJanuary 05, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

Recently I was traveling, and after collapsing on my hotel bed after a particularly grueling day, I clicked on the flat screen to check out the late news. As I was surfing the channels trying to locate CNN, I happened upon cable network’s E! channel where I watched in disbelief as at a group of brides-to-be battled it out for who would get to undergo plastic surgery to look “perfect” for her wedding day. This train wreck of a series is called Bridalplasty (I’m not kidding) where the winning bride is rewarded by getting cut — literally. Like watching a bad accident happen, I was glued to the screen in shock and abject horror.

One woman, Alyson, obese and tattooed, obsessed about getting rid of her floppy upper arms. She’d grab a handful of fat and shake it with disdain, declaring “This has got to go”. During that episode, she got her wish. She was treated to upper arm liposuction with a “bonus” chin liposuction. Post-operatively she looked swollen and mummified in tape. Her Facebook comment was, “So I have to say liposuction looks pretty GROSS, I believe I may have nightmares for a while after seeing that.

I’m having nightmares after watching just one episode. If your bat wings are driving you crazy — and it’s a short drive — I’ll bet the thought of liposuction and/or surgery has crossed some of your minds at some time. Is it worth it? Dr. Michael Olding, chief of Plastic Surgery at George Washington University says, “The best result occurs after you’ve dropped all of the weight. Even then, you have the issue of elasticity, which worsens with age. Young skin is like polyester and can snap right back, middle-aged skin is like cotton with less snap, and in older adults skin is like linen.” Although she’s overweight, Alyson is young and should have good elasticity. However if she’d dropped the weight first, I’ll bet she wouldn’t have needed any lipo.

Let’s put the knife down and get a great set of upper arms the right way. We’ll train and transform those troublesome triceps. First, do you have a problem with bat wings? Don’t think that you must be overweight to flap in the wind. Thin women with little muscle can sag right along with the best of them. I call those women the “skinny fat”. Everyone, stand facing a mirror and extend each arm out to the side. If you see a sagging at the upper arm level, and if you shake your arms and they swing back and forth-red alert if you create a breeze while doing so — then, bingo, you’ve got bat wings.

The older you are, the more you notice many anatomical parts heading south. No worries. I’ll be addressing those other parts of your corpus delecti throughout the next weeks of this wonderful 2011 get-in-shape campaign. Alright, ready to get started? Here’s what to do to transform your wings into tighter and toned arms.

Using my tried and true Peeke Performance template, we’ll combine MIND, MOUTH and MUSCLE for optimal fitness. Mentally, remember these three words — Believe , Achieve, and Succeed. Everything starts with a firm belief that you can achieve your goal of toned upper arms. That belief will power you through your exercises as well as nutrition.

Nutritionally, you need to be eating a balance of lean protein (e.g. low fat dairy, poultry, fish, beans), as well as healthy carbs and fats. The protein is important since you’ll need that to build and maintain new muscle. And, no, you will not be piling on Serena Williams level muscles. Most women are happy to see any triceps and biceps show up. Keep your carbs under control prioritizing non-starchy veggies, and don’t forget that healthy fats (e.g. nuts, olive oil, omega fish oils) kill carb cravings and keep you satisfied.

Alright, let’s get right down to some simple exercises to wake up your triceps and upper arm, and tighten it up. I’ll give you a triple bonus as well. As you do each exercise, work your core and glutes at the same time. Suck them in and tighten with each movement and you’ll be getting a triceps-core-glute workout.

Equipment: Elastic tubing or bands, single arm dumbbells 2-5 pounds (more if you’re more trained)

Location: These can be done at home or the gym.

Goal: For each exercise, you’ll be striving to do 3 sets of ten repetitions. Never bounce when you execute the movements. Always try to tighten your abs and glutes.

Precaution: If you have any problems with your elbow, hand or shoulder, do not attempt these exercises without medical clearance.

1) Scratch Your Back: Traditional name: Dumbell Tricep Extension. You can either sit straight up or stand if you want. Grab one dumbbell (start with the lightest one and practice your form) and hold it over your head with both hands under one end of the weight. Then, lower the weight down behind your head as far as you can go on a count of 1-2-3-4. Hold for just a second and then reverse, extending your arms to the start position. It looks like you’re scratching your upper back and neck. If you’re using bands or tubing, you will do this exercise by stepping on the elastic with the foot on the side of the arm you’ll be working, since you can only do one arm at a time. Grab the elastic and extend over your head and then bend your elbow and lower the elastic behind your neck to the upper back.

2) Skull Crusher or Nose Breaker: Traditional name: Lying French Press. Using a weight bench or your bed, lie down on your back with your feet flat on the bench/bed and knees bent. Your head should be at the edge of the bed/bench. Now grab one single arm dumbbell in each hand. Carefully and with full control, keeping your elbows close to your head, to a count of two lower the weights down to your nose, your hairline, or behind your head until you feel tension in your triceps. Then, reverse by extending your arms to the start position. For novices, you might find it easier to go behind your head.

3) Dippity Do Dah Dips: Traditional name: Triceps Dips. You can use a bench or a chair. Stand with your back to the bench/chair. Place your hands on the bench/chair with palms down and your knuckles facing forward. Hands should be slightly closer than shoulder width apart. As you are doing this you will bend at the knees and your legs should be at a 90-degree angle. To a count of two, keep control and lower your body by bending at the elbow. Elbows should not point out away from the body as you lower. You’ll feel that triceps tense up. Now, reverse by straightening your arms which pushes your body back up in a count of two. For women especially, this is not an easy exercise so don’t worry if you can only do one or two of these without becoming fatigued. Be patient and build up over time. As you get stronger, you’ll move your feet out further and further until one day you’ll have your legs straight out and you’ll dip down with only your heels on the ground.

4) Tri a Push-Up: Traditional name: Close Grip Push-up. I love push-ups because you can actually hit 6 muscles at once- shoulder, chest, biceps, triceps, abs and glutes. What’s not to love? Get into a push up position on the floor and place your hands directly under your shoulders. It’s perfectly fine to do a bent knee push-up if you cannot do this exercise with a straight leg. Keeping elbows in by your side, and face up and looking forward, lower your body down for a count of two and straightening your arms, return to start. Don’t forget to squeeze your stomach and butt as you do each push-up. Again, this is a challenging exercise so pop a patience pill. If you can do one or two with great form, that’s a terrific start.

Whenever I’m working out, I love to have great music to get me into bat wing battle mode. Here are a few of my favorites for you to “tri” as you say Buh- Bye to your bat wings.

Music to Sing “Buh-Bye” to Your Bat Wings

  • Kelly Clarkson: Already Gone from “All I Ever Wanted”
  • Christina Aquilerra: Can’t Hold Us Down from “Stripped”
  • Santana: Smooth from “Supernatural”
  • Black Eyes Peas: Let’s Get It Started from “Let’s Get It Started”
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